"That's what I work for every year," Thames said. "It'll be a great feeling."
Usually, his feelings in these final days have been disappointing. He lasted this long into camp with the Yankees a few years ago, only to start the season at Triple-A Columbus. He seemed set to open last season in Detroit following a torrid spring performance, until then-manager Alan Trammell selected veteran Bobby Higginson as his reserve corner outfielder instead.
It ended up being superfluous once Thames was called up April 9, but that didn't make him feel much better in the interim.
"Last year was hard," Thames said. "I came into spring and I played hard, left every bit of my energy on the field. And I thought I'd be [making the team], but I didn't. [Trammell] told me I was going down and I went down and played hard in Toledo.
"That's the only thing you can do. You can't go around and mope about it. If you do, then you're going to be there."
That's the advice he'll probably have for fellow Tigers outfielder and close friend Nook Logan, who did not make Wednesday's cut. After all his close calls, Thames has long since learned he has little control over who makes the team. But this is Logan's first such trip.
"I play hard," he said. "That's all I want to do, come in and play hard. Whatever happens after that, happens. Just make sure I give it 100 percent and leave it all out there on the field. The [manager and front office] make the decisions. I don't."
While others were asking Leyland where they fit on the team, Thames was quiet and waited around to see what happened at the end. This was one decision Leyland enjoyed making.
"I just want this guy to get a chance," Leyland said. "I know he hasn't done it in that situation, but he's one of ours. I think he's earned the right to at least get another shot to see if he can do it. I really like him a lot. I have respect for him."
What Leyland doesn't have much to give Thames, though, is playing time. And while Leyland congratulated Thames on making the team, it came with a warning about what to expect when he's up here. In that sense, it's very similar to the bench role he's had before. If he's going to make it, he'll have to adjust.
"I know a little bit what the track record has been," Leyland said. "When he's come up here, he's struggled a little bit with not getting much playing time and not having produced. And when he goes down and gets a lot of at-bats, he hits. I made it simple: You're still not going to probably get a lot of at-bats as we stand, so we have to continue to figure out if we can give you one shot with this to improve on that. I just wanted to make sure it was clear."
Thames appreciated the honesty. As for adjusting to the bench time, he said, "We've got three or four managers in here [between Leyland and the coaching staff]. I can talk to them and ask them how did their guys get prepared. Just be ready."
From closing to advance work: Troy Percival visited the Tiger clubhouse on Wednesday, but not for any new comeback. The only attempt he's making is in a new line of work; he'll work this year as an advance scout for the club, looking for tendencies among pitchers and hitters for his teammates to watch.
The idea came up during a meeting with front-office officials on what he could do during the season, while he's still under contract and on the disabled list with a career-ending muscle tear near his elbow. Percival is already well-versed in video work and spotting tendencies. He'll travel to Texas this week to get a look at the Rangers, but he'll do most of his work this season at home watching games on television.
"It's not something I want to make a career out of," Percival said. "It fills a need the Tigers have. Ideally, I'd like to be in a uniform and on the field."
After seeing the reports that scouts file, though, Percival said he has a whole new respect for them. What Percival hopes to bring to the job is a different set of eyes that have been on the field recently.
"A lot of players want different things," Percival said. "And I know these guys. One guy might want to know approach. One guy might want to know his favorite pitch in this particular count. I've been walking around asking guys what kind of stuff they want."
Leyland wants a whole different scouting report. "He's the highest paid scout in the country," Leyland joked. "He's a trooper, but we knew that. I told him to find me the best place to buy a good pair of cowboy boots when I go there [to Texas]."
Rogers battles through: It was a long day for Kenny Rogers even before he took the mound thanks to the viral bug he's been battling. It didn't get much easier with the first pitch.
Rogers took a hard-hit bouncer from Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano off the base of his left thumb. He fielded it, made a force-out at second base and stayed in the game, but struggled. He had five walks, three of them consecutively in the third inning to force in the go-ahead run.
Rogers said he'll be fine, both with his hand and his illness.
"I didn't think I would feel good enough to get more than one or two innings in, but my energy was much better than I expected," Rogers said. "At first, I thought getting my hand on that ball might've stopped me from getting my work in, but luckily, it didn't."
Coming up: The Tigers conclude their Polk County rivalry against the Indians on Thursday with a 1:05 p.m. ET contest in Winter Haven. Jeremy Bonderman will make his final start of Spring Training before Todd Jones, Fernando Rodney and Bobby Seay are scheduled to take the mound. Jake Westbrook is slated to start for Cleveland.